St. Vincent's 95,000 residents are anxiously looking at the sky these days as the local volcano, La Soufriere, has begun to erupt. Efforts to evacuate the area have been complicated by requirements for them to get vaccinated first.
St. Vincent is the main island of the country called St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and right now parts of the island are being blanketed with ash as La Soufriere springs back to life for the first time in almost half a century. The ash has reached as far as the island's airport, some 16km away.
According to The NY Times, 20,000 people have been evacuated from the danger zone already.
"I want to urge all our people to be calm — do not panic. We will come through this stronger than ever," said Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves at a Thursday press conference after having ordered a complete evacuation of the area.
Referring to the fact that Antigua, St. Lucia, Grenada and Barbados said they would take refugees, Gonsalves commented, "Amazing on this dangerous road to Jericho we have the good Samaritans. It brings home that we are one Caribbean family."
The pandemic is not helping the situation at all, and under question is the fact that would-be refugees are being forced to get vaccinated in order to be received on cruise ships, and also to land on neighbouring islands. There is also talk of requiring vaccination to enter the shelters which are being set up on St. Vincent itself.
All of this is despite the fact that experts all think that the vaccine isn't considered to be clinically effective until a few weeks after the last dose is received, on average.
Cecilia Jewett works for her nation's government as a roads supervisor, and is a survivor of the last eruption, which occurred back in 1979. She commented:
"Those stories come back to my mind on hearing that the La Soufriere was acting up. It’s just too much. These young people would not understand. They think it’s just an explosion."
"The sulfur, what it does to your eyes, your breathing, your very existence. It was a time I would not want to relive."
Said geology professor and volcano expert Richard Robertson, "Once it has started, it’s possible you could have more explosions. The first bang is not necessarily the biggest bang this volcano will give."
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